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Positive Feedback ISSUE 9
october/november 2003


VSAC 2003 - A Terrific Regional Fine Audio Show!
Photo Essay, Part IV: Notes and Images from the First Floor and Departure

by David W. Robinson


(All photographs and image processing by Robinson)

The balance of VSAC was to be found on the main floor, which is where much of the soul of the event is—particularly in the DIY room.

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Now here's a familiar name! The Oregon Triode Society's project was the first thing that I spotted when crossing the threshold of the DIY room. 300B's… anyone surprised?! ("No!")

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Tony Ho's project was certainly eye-catching. More than one photographer spent time with this handsome component.

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More of the DIY kit…

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…and more…

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…and more! Anyone who loves audio just has to enjoy VSAC. There's a special feel to it… and the amateur solder jockeys are a big part of it all. (Which is why so many of the professional shows seem to lack soul.)

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A big "yowzah!" goes to Portlander Matt Kamna for his exceptional copper-clad monoblocks. Matt's meticulous in his work… has been for a lot of years… and I always enjoy seeing the fruit of his efforts.

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Out in the hall once more, I drifted down to catch the exhibitor's table section of the show. And… at long last… I finally got to meet Allen Wright of Vacuum State Electronics personally! Allen was introduced to me, long distance and virtualized, by Harvey (Gizmo!) Rosenberg, one of my close audio friends. PF published an excerpt or two from Allen's brilliant audio writing that Gizmo had introduced me to…

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…speaking of which, here's Allen with a copy of his book, The Tube Preamp Cookbook. Allen and I went over to the restaurant, where we had a conversation over coffee and soft drinks. The content of this "quasi interview" will appear in a future issue of PFO.

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Allen Wright makes some pretty scrumptious looking tube gear to go with his passion for SACD… check out this monoblock!

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The underside isn't bad looking, either!

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Vacuum Tube Valley had a booth in the exhibitors' area.

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By later in the afternoon on Saturday, crowds were beginning to gather for the SACD "digital mods" session. The idea was to compare four different modified SACD players, so that listeners could try to get some idea of the qualitative differences among them.

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Anyone who thinks that there's no interest in SACD and SACD modding should have been at this session! It was standing room only, with crowds spilling out into the hallway, and not a whole lot of excess O2 to go around…

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John Tucker of Exemplar Audio and FIM introduces his components in the SACD playback system.

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Allen Wright of Vacuum State Electronics discusses his SACD modification board (in hand) for one of the Sony SACD players.

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Dan Wright of Modwright with some of his very fine tubed output Sony 777 series SACD players.

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And speaking of SACD modifiers, just down the hall I ran into Richard Kern of Audiomod (right) with his good friend Brooks Clutter (that's him on the left, clutching his Cardas Sweep Record with Dave Glackin's immortal photograph of Stan Ricker doin' the bass in his cutting room… RIGHTEOUS!!!) Richard's another good friend, and a firm believer in the possibilities of SACD.

Alas! The SACD digital mod room was too crowded for me to be able to listen to most of the comparisons, so I went back down to revisit something that had caught my eye in the downstairs exhibition area…

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…and there it was!! Paul Weitzel and company at Tube Research Labs were showing off their new Golden Triode Multichannel Reference Preamp…

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…six glorious channels of TRL genius! I've gotten to spend time with Paul's work in the past, and have developed a profound respect for the meticulous craftsmanship that his designs always embody. I haven't received technical details yet, but I have been told that there are 11 tubes in them thar gold. This design will be complemented by a universal multichannel player and D/A in the near future…stay tuned, because Tube Research Labs has promised Positive Feedback Online a review sample in the near future!

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Paul Weitzel (center) with two of his TRL associates.

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Dave Glackin (left) and Stan Ricker (right) also found the Tube Research multichannel preamp to be tough to resist. Just imagine:  all that drool in one place!

I wanted to go back upstairs again, and this time ran into…

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…Terry and Leslie Cain of Cain & Cain Audio. (Leslie's the pretty one!) I hadn't had much of a chance to talk with them, so chatted for a while. The Cain & Cain designs are works of the woodworking art, and have very high efficiencies for the folks who really love flea-powered SETs. These yellow jobbies were quite eye-popping… the photo does not do them justice.

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I couldn't resist doing a separate portrait of Terry Cain.

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A little later it was time for dinner… this time over at the local Thai restaurant. (From left to right, Carol Clark, Lila Ritsema, Steve Rochlin, Stan Ricker, Dave Glackin, Roger S. Gordon, Srajan Ebaen, Dave Clark.) You know, we always have great outings when PFO goes out for food ‘n drink! And once again, our good editorial friends Steve Rochlin of and Srajan Ebaen of were a part of our fellowship… which goes to show that fine audio writing/publishing with different publications does NOT have to get in the way of real friendship. Period.

Our fine cigar session followed… but those high deee-mand(!) PFO "X files" photos have already been published. Ditto with the "Stevie-o Rochlin in his Cohiba doggie slipper" shots. (See for the gory images!)

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The next morning, I was able to duck my head in for a while to catch some of Allen Wright's comments on tube circuit design. The presentation was witty, and very well attended, as you can see. There was more going on, but we had to get ready to return to Portland…and boy were we tired!

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The end of a good audio show is always a bit emotional. Dave Glackin and Stan Ricker say goodbye, before Dave and I took off. Stan "The Man!" Ricker is as good as they come… a treasure for audiophiles everywhere. I count it a privilege to count him as one of my friends… and that goes for Dave, too!

Audio is about the people as well as the music… and friendships are what give music and audio its life-breath.

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VSAC 2003 was a special, wonderful event for all of us who attended it. Audio shows like these are few and far between, my friends. Many of them are simply corporate commercial ventures, with little consideration given to the average audio/music lover. I'd agree with Srajan on this (see; why should we support that sort of soullessness in fine audio?

Good question… beats me!

What I would say is, the next time that Dan Schmalle/Ron Welborne take it into their heads to do an audio gathering… well, if I was you, I wouldn't miss it….